Time for a “YOU” Turn… Taking Care of Yourself as an Early Childhood Educator

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Let’s face it… As care providers– in either Early Childhood programs or as parents, it often becomes natural to neglect our own needs. We use up all our time making sure the children in our care are happy and cared for, sometimes at the expense of adequate sleep, nutrition, and emotional well-being. It isn’t until we hit the wall that we step back and re-evaluate things. How much better to pay some attention to yourself on a daily basis and avoid the wall altogether!

ACCEPT HELP

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We all have a lot to do, though you may feel singled out in the overload department. I’d like to introduce a word that may be new to some of you– delegate. You may truly believe there is no one capable of doing any of your necessary tasks as well as you, but get over it. So what if items are put away on the third shelf instead of the second shelf. At least they’re put away and a gentle reminder to your kind helper takes a lot less time than putting all of it away yourself. From one who’s been there, I know how hard it is to let go of what needs to be done. But, my motto has become, “If someone offers help, take it!”

That being said, I have also had to let go of my comparisons between how others do things and how I would have done them. This is self-destructive, stress-inducing, and completely nuts. If you’ve ever seen the movie, “Sleeping with the Enemy,” with Julia Roberts, you will immediately understand how the phrase, “labels out” applies to this mentality. If you haven’t, trust me, it’s not good.

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LEARN TIME MANAGEMENT

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Sometimes, when we have a lot to do, it’s hard to stay focused on completing one task at a time. You may think your multitasking is working, but that’s delusional. It might seem as though a lot is getting done, but usually, at the end of the day, very little has been accomplished and most is only half-baked.

A few years ago, a colleague shared a funny but oh-so-true video entitled, “Age-activated Attention Deficit Disorder.” (Check this out on YouTube!). I realized it had less to do with age and more to do with lack of focus and not seeing tasks through to completion– both of which are a problem for most, but especially for those of us responsible for a room full of children and everything else going on in our lives!

To avoid these problems, I have incorporated a simple daily strategy plan into my morning routine. It’s a form that helps me remember the iportant, pressing stuff, as well as the stuff that can wait… and provides a format to prioritize everything (another new word for many reading this!)

This magical tool has brought sanity to my life and will do the same for yours. Sitting down with my fresh, new Daily Strategy Plan over morning coffee has made all the difference.

First, I transfer everything left undone or unfinished from yesterday’s sheet onto the new one. Then, under the heading, Brain Unload, I jot down all the thoughts, ideas, issues, and things to do that are filling up my head. Now there’re there, written down, not to be forgotten!

Then, there’s a space to rough in my schedule for the day, so I stay on time and know what’s coming up.

Next, I use the spot titled, “Non-Negotiables” to list the top five things that absolutely must get done that day, like it or not.

The bottom space that’s titled, “My Little Reward for the Day” is reserved for one thing I can look forward to doing at the end of my day. Usually, it isn’t anything spectacular- maybe going out for a simple dinner with my husband, my favorite TV show, digging into that new novel, or FaceTime with one of my kids.

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The point is, you need to make time for (schedule!) something you enjoy that is not work or responsibility-related. This is so important in relieving stress and renewing our energy! Try a week’s worth of Daily Strategy Plan sheets and see if it doesn’t make a difference in your sanity and focus. This will translate into more productivity and effectiveness in your Early Childhood program, too! Contact me on my website and I’ll be happy to send you a copy.

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